Smile… And Your Mind Will Smile Back

For a very long time it was understood that our brain helps in controlling our mind and emotions. It in turn manifests in our physical appearances. This is something that helps us identify if a person is feeling sad or not. The face and body are usually a canvas for the emotions to splatter itself. What we feel, is reflected on our face, unless of course we are too good at hiding it. Interestingly, researches have led to the conclusion that the opposite is also possible – where the physiological change can affect an emotion.

Charles Darwin was among the first to suggest that physiological changes caused by an emotion had a direct impact on, rather than being just the consequence of, that emotion. Following on this idea, William James suggested that awareness of bodily changes activated by a stimulus "is the emotion". If no bodily changes are felt, there is only an intellectual thought, devoid of emotional warmth. Many psychologists added onto this thought using experiments and theories to bring about the theory of “Facial Feedback Hypothesis”.

According to the facial feedback hypothesis, emotions are created due to the changes in our facial muscles. For instance, when we smile, we experience pleasure or happiness and when we frown, we experience sadness. It is the changes in our facial muscles that give our brains the cue which would provide the basis for our emotions. Just as there are unlimited numbers of muscle configurations in our face, so are there a seemingly unlimited number of emotions.

Hence the Facial Feedback Hypothesis implies that contracting muscles that control facial expressions associated with a certain emotion elicit that particular emotion. Let's say you go to a party that you didn't want to go to in the first place. Every time you come across a familiar person, you give a courtesy smile, and in doing so, you realize that the party is not as bad as you thought it to be.

One of many interesting experiments done to test this concept is called 'pen in mouth' experiment. As a part of this experiment, researchers told participants to either clench a pen with their teeth, which activates muscles that are used for smiling, or hold it tightly with their lips, which rendered these muscles inactive. Then they asked these participants to rate funny cartoons. In the end, researchers found out that those participants who had their smiling muscles activated found the cartoons funnier than those who didn't. To smile is to be positive!

Well, why don’t you experiment and see if smiling helps you feel happier. Smile, and your mind will smile back to you, giving you a day that might be more positive.

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